Prison Tats, Race Wars and White Collars: Why the Church Should be Rough Around the Middle

My wife couldn’t hide the sadness in her face. I’m not sure if she even wanted to. We were about to go out and get yogurt with our three kids after dinner to celebrate the kickoff of another new school year. 

However, I spent that evening in an apartment with someone else’s kids whose mother had been arrested earlier that day. Her children had been home alone for hours. The confusion on their faces when I opened the door of their apartment was sincere. 

When the four-year-old saw me, he said, “It’s Jesus!” 

His older brother corrected him, “It’s not Jesus. It’s Pastor Scott.”

“What are you doing here, Pastor Scott?”

The truth is I was there to wait with them until their mother made bail and could make it home. So I had come with Happy Meals in hand and a little lie about their mother’s car trouble.

I kept staring at his Tag Heuer watch. It was a beautiful watch. I thought to myself, if I could have any watch, it’d be that one. I was looking at his watch to avoid looking at the tears coming down his face.

Less than four years in and his marriage was teetering somewhere between joylessness and divorce. This handsome, very educated professional saw those as his only two options. I saw him and his wife the next Sunday, though, sitting across from a man and woman that had been married twice as long as this young couple had been alive.

“You need to come to church with us one Sunday. They take this stuff ****ing serious. It’s awesome.”

I had never quite heard someone invited to church like that before. But that’s how my buddy, who up until the last couple of months had never been to church, invited a mutual friend of ours. 

. . . . .

We have a large Sunday School class that recently had a high percentage of African Americans in it (30 percent or so which is high for Presbyterians). I was told that while in that class, a white man weighed in with a very conservative take on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict.

There was disagreement.

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Scott Castleman
Scott Castleman is a third generation Presbyterian pastor. He and his wife Rebecca have been married for fifteen years. They have three children. Scott received his bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies from Belhaven University in 1998. After four years in full time youth ministry he attended Reformed Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary where he received a Masters of Divinity in 2006. He has been the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Ocean Springs, MS since 2009. He is currently working on a Doctorate of Ministry from Reformed Theological Seminary with a focus on leadership.

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